Carn nan Gobhar, Sgurr na Lapaich
An Riabhachan, An Socach
& Mullach na Dheiragain
Friday 19th July 2013
Weather/Conditions: Hot, hot, hot, hot. Not a breath of wind and a brutal sun. Sweat pouring off me, lethargy all day. These conditions were hard to do anything in and my pace was slow.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 26.2km / 2560m / 12h 18m
I first did the Mullardoch round in two days, and found it really tough, as in; one of the hardest trips I've ever done. But in retrospect I think there were reasons for that and I was hopeful to knock them off in 2 days once more.
The sun was already hot when I woke up in Glen Cannich. I packed reluctantly, and set off under a blazing sun at 9:40am. That was my first mistake: if I'd realised how relentless the sun would be, I might have started a lot earlier.
The first Munro, Carn nan Gobhar was a complete drag. I was carrying a (far too) heavy rucksack, the sun was pounding down and the clegs made stopping nearly impossible. I've never seen them this bad. On a round like this, progress is slow and steady and can't be measured across one or two Munros. So I continued onto the summit and a couple hours later, collapsed by the cairn in a daze of heat and dehydration. It took ten minutes just to recover enough to take pictures and phone home.
The heat made conventional progress impossible, so I continued over my next mountains in a bit of a sluggish haze. The good news was that I felt physically well, but the heat just sucked the life out of me. Loads of folk were out on Sgurr na Lapaich and An Riabhachan, and then things became quieter toward An Socach. Back here, I really was committed to doing the full trip: a good feeling.
Time seemed to melt this day. A high and dazzling sun froze the mountains absolutely still and silent. I don't often have this feeling. I sat on An Socach in the late-afternoon sun with a guy from Newcastle who'd come up from Glen Elchaig. We chatted mountains, looking out across the Western Highlands and Islands. I liked his thoughts and opinions on what we were doing here, and it was tempting to sit around all evening.
But I had a schedule to keep. I wanted the Affric round in two days: that would put me back on schedule. There's a huge drop from An Socach, to the next Munro, Mullach na Dheiragain. You drop down to the head of Loch Mullardoch, which is essentially the same altitude as the car! (Best not to think about it.) I felt that if I could climb about out the other side to Mullach na Dheiragain tonight, I stood a really good chance of making the end tomorrow.
Strangely, it went on forever, but when you have your head down and you're just plodding, the miles go by and you accept them. It continues to amaze me that the difficulty of mountains so closely linked to expectation: if you anticipate something to be difficult, you'll get there, do it, and carry a sensation of lightness. If you assume you are in for an easy ride, the effort of climbing the mountain will be a shock and it'll hardly be the easy ride you imagined. Thus, difficult endeavours can paradoxically feel easy... in retrospect, always!
I got to Mullach na Dheiragain as the sun sank in the western sky. I was now completely alone, with the freedom of the mountains on my heels and nothing to worry about but where I walked and where I went to sleep. I continued to see how far I got. Half-way to the monster mountain of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan (if you can pronounce that then shame on you) I decided enough was enough and pitched my tent at 3000 feet with the sun a ball of red. The mountains turned to orange and were streaked in long shadows. Darkness settled over; I set my alarm early and sleep came as soon as my head hit the bed.
Photos: Carn nan Gobhar
Sgurr na Lapaich
An Socach and to the Mullardoch river (Gobh-alltan)
Mullach na Dheiragain
Camp on Carn na Con Dhu & Sunset
Carn nan Gobhar
Sgurr na Lapaich
An Socach (North Mullardoch)
Mullach na Dheiragain
Carn na Con Dhu
(0.00) 9.40am Mullardoch dam
(2.55) c. 12.35pm Carn nan Gobhar
(4.20) 2.00pm Sgurr na Lapaich
(6.10) 3.50pm An Riabhachan
(8.45) 6.25pm An Socach
(10.00) 7.40pm Mullardoch river, by Gobh-alltan
(11.25) 9.05pm Mullach Sithidh
(11.38) 9.18pm Mullach na Dheiragain
(12.18) 9.58pm Carn na Con Dhu, campsite